Let's start with a little bio: I'm 22, and due to graduate from a large public university with a BA in English and a GPA of about 3.1. I am to put it lightly filled with dread over this state of affairs, as I don't really know what I'm going to do now on a practical level, I'm afraid of the future, and dangerously nostalgic for the past. I've been seeing a counselor for all this, who has helped a bit, but for now that deep well of dread and fear is still there.
Drew Magary, a writer for among other publications Deadspin and GQ, has published his annual "alternative" commencement address for graduating college students. [link]
Compared to his earlier missives in the subject, this is downright optimistic (which should tell you a lot about the earlier ones). The message is essentially "Forget about trying to find a high-paying job in law or business right out of college, because it will destroy your soul. Take some time to fuck around, go places, learn new things, meet people. It's good for the soul and
it will be better for your future than pointless office crap." Oh, that it were so easy! What's interesting is that the comment section is split pretty much right down the middle: Half of them are saying "Yes, listen to this man, I jumped right into law school/MBA/white-collar work and now every minute of my existence is a torment. Modern capitalism is a sham." and the other half are saying "Well, I don't know about 'finding yourself' hur hur, but went into business and I've paid off my student loans and my life is great! I'll retire comfortably at 55 and dick around like a boss while the rest of you are still stuck in limbo. JUST DO WHAT I DID!" Well, damn, I was totally going to base my life plan on an internet comments section, but if the comments section is conflicted
, I don't know what to do!
A few thoughts: One of my least-favorite characters in the never-ending do-what-you-love versus prepare-for-a-job argument vis a vis what college-age people should do with themselves is Mr. "Well, if you were smart like me, you'd have majored in finance/engineering/computer science/etc! But you didn't and now you're failing at life! Ha!" A lot to unpack there, starting with the fact that laughing at and being smug about other people's misfortune makes you an asshole. There's also the fact that most people, even numbers people, don't want to live in a society where everyone is a data-driven, efficiency-obsessed Spock (even if they think they do), and that being good at the 'marketable majors', liking them enough to actually want to do them for a living, and finding a job in them, are three separate hurdles, and all three require some portion of luck, genetics, and family background to accomplish (and hard work and patience, too: the two groups can co-exist). May I at least gently point out that it would be bad for them if everyone decided to work in finance or engineering or what have you? And it's not like the economy could support it either. It reminds me of the libertarian psychosis that workers' rights don't really matter, because the disenchanted can just up and quit and start their own businesses! Snap, just like that! Why, we could be an entire nation of small businessmen if only we had the nerve. Nothing structurally impossible about that!
I am the son of two teachers, and I've always liked school, especially compared with some other people I know. Like, not just liking that it's made me smarter or that I made friends there, but liked it. Liked going to different classes, liked learning things, liked the extracurriculars, liked knowing everyone (through high school, that is.) I think there's a certain romance about it all, even when things weren't going well: it's a rare and precious gift to be a student. My work-world experience is limited, but I've never felt the same. I've never said "Boy, I can't wait to go to the furniture store today! It's so fulfilling!" Yes, no one really says that, but I figure as long as they make you do something with your life, you could do worse than school. If there was a sort of job like "permanent student" I'd take it in a heartbeat. (Maybe I should look for a job in academia?) My friends and acquaintances who say they're so glad to be done with school mystify me, and I'm sure I mystify them.
My dream job is to write and/or draw for a living. I realize this is the dream of lots of pretentious 22-year-olds. I also can't deny that the idea of settling into a 'practical' job that I'm almost but not ever quite satisfied with, and never doing anything artistic or creative except when I can barely find time, fills me with a feeling akin to that of an innocent man being led to the electric chair.
I wish I was the sort of person who could, say, hop on a motorcycle or into a beater car and just zoom off to the great Northwest and find work in a lumberyard or buy a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires and learn Spanish on the fly. It's terribly romantic, and it would provide me with more options, at least. I'm not. I get nervous at family gatherings when I don't know what time food is being served. Any lifestyle based around overcoming continual uncertainty through quick thinking and a willingness to travel light would leave me a broken man. It's sad and pathetic for a 22-year-old man to tell himself he can't handle spontaneity, but here I am.
So, old farts who read this journal, what should I be doing with my life?